San Diego took the precautionary move on Tuesday of prohibiting growing of marijuana in the dozens of urban gardens expected to soon sprout up across the city under a new property tax incentive approved in January.
The incentive aims to transform some of the city’s roughly 2,000 blighted properties into colorful gardens where local residents will grow and harvest fruits and vegetables on individual plots of land.
But the legislation approved in January failed to stipulate that marijuana can’t be among the crops grown in the new urban gardens, so the City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to add that prohibition.
Attorneys for the city said this winter they were confident such an amendment was unnecessary, primarily because San Diego adopted separate legislation last year that allows pot farms in the city but requires them to be indoors and to meet a long list of additional requirements.
Council members, however, said they wanted to eliminate any potential confusion by making it as clear as possible that marijuana can’t be grown in the urban gardens.
San Diego officials decided to allow pot farms and factories making marijuana edibles in the city to create a local supply chain and eliminate the need for city dispensaries to truck marijuana in from elsewhere.
None of the farms and factories have opened yet because of rigorous city environmental approvals and other regulatory hurdles that have delayed their approval.
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The urban gardens program seeks to boost access to healthy food in low-income areas and encourage greater civic engagement by bringing residents together at the gardens.
The incentive, which is possible under a state law approved in 2014, was delayed nearly two years by negotiations with county officials over how to implement its property tax reductions.
Property owners willing to participate would have the assessed value of their property reduced from its current level to the state’s assessed value for irrigated crop land: $13,300 per acre.
Council members have hailed the incentive as legislation with multiple benefits and essentially no drawbacks. The city’s reduction in property tax revenue would total only $174,000 per year even if every eligible parcel became an urban garden.
To be eligible, properties must be between one-tenth of an acre and three acres in size.